I was very committed to getting my 4yr old to swim this summer. I loved swimming as a kid and would train with my swim club before or after school several times a week, so I signed my son up for a two week intensive swim class. He had spent time in pools before but hadn’t really taken to it – I knew this summer would be different!
At the first class he wouldn’t even get in the pool. At the second class he managed to get in the pool but hung onto the side in abject terror. By the end of two weeks there was some progress. He was in the water begrudgingly and even doing the occasional skill with the lifeguards, but he was far from comfortable and terrified of getting his hair wet.
It was so frustrating for me watching the other kids in the class making huge strides – jumping in, swimming, and going under water all with pure joy and exuberance. Then I realized parenting is just like acting. You research, make choices and form a plan but when “action” is called you throw it all away and just live in the moment. You have no idea what your scene partner will throw at you or where the scene will go. You release control and go for the ride. It’s “magic time” as Jack Lemmon used to say.
I was refusing to listen and be in the moment with my son. I was holding tight to my plan and refusing to let go! There was no point pushing for the results I wanted. I needed to let go off my expectations and trust him. He will swim when he is ready. Comparing my son to other kids is a trap that can happen in my acting career too – “compare and despair.” It reminded me of this fantastic article by Dallas Travers.
My son will not be swimming this year and I’m totally fine with it. He is a cautious kid who takes a while to warm up to things. He observes, gets the lay of the land (or the lay of the pool as the case may be) before jumping in. All I can do is continue to expose him to water and when he is ready he will jump in – literally and figuratively.
As I continue my parenting and acting journeys however, I have a feeling I will need to remind myself of both these lessons!